The re­turn of the golden ea­gle

The Week Middle East - - Front Page -

Bri­tain’s golden ea­gle pop­u­la­tion has in­creased by 15% in lit­tle more than a decade. There are now 508 breed­ing pairs, all of them in Scot­land: 66 more pairs than in 2003, when the last na­tional sur­vey was car­ried out – and enough, it is thought, to en­sure the pop­u­la­tion’s long-term vi­a­bil­ity. The raptors – whose twome­tre wing­span makes them the UK’s sec­ond­largest bird, af­ter the white ea­gle – were once com­mon across the UK, but had all but van­ished from Eng­land and Wales by the mid 19th cen­tury, largely as a re­sult of be­ing killed by game­keep­ers (the birds prey on grouse). Scot­land’s golden ea­gle pop­u­la­tion was then hit by the use of organochlo­rine pes­ti­cides, which caused mass in­fer­til­ity among them.

There are fears that the golden ea­gles are still be­ing shot, poi­soned or trapped to pro­tect grouse moors, but ac­cord­ing to the RSPB, at­ti­tudes are be­com­ing more “en­light­enened”. The ea­gles – many of which are now satel­lite-tagged – have also ben­e­fited from there be­ing more prey, in­clud­ing grouse and hares, on the hill­sides as a re­sult of re­duced graz­ing by sheep and deer.

The ea­gles were once com­mon in the UK

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